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10 September 2019 | Tirana, Albania [Vanessa dos Anjos with Parengė Dovilė Bakonytė]  

How can adolescents and young adults make healthy choices in contemporary society? To discuss the issues 105 youth, young adults and leaders participated in a pilot project Youth Alive, 13 – 18 August 2019 in Tirana Albania, with a further training in Klaipėda, Lithuania, 19-24 August.

Albania 9 Youth Alive is a youth discipleship initiative designed to build resilience among teens and young adults by inspiring and equipping them to make healthy choices. The programme is coordinated at the Seventh-day Adventist World Church headquarters in Washington, DC (GC), and was run in partnership with the Trans-European Division. The initiative is divided into two parts with an initial training for leaders who are then joined by adolescents and young adults for a Youth Alive Congress.

Albania 5 editedAfter specialists lectured about physical, mental and spiritual health, participants were then encouraged to reflect on important issues, such as: the need to establish healthy relationships without abuse; the risk posed by different types of addiction (including technology, harmful substances and pornography); and the psychic, physiological and spiritual symptoms that risk behaviours entail. This included the opportunity to meet in small groups, called ‘Friendship Groups’, in which the topics presented by the speakers were discussed under the guidance of one leader and followed by practical activities.

“I liked everything; it was supper fun. I learned about sexuality, depression, how to be happy, and how to choose the right things", says Joana Hallkaj, a 13-year-old participant.

Leo N. España, president of the Albanian Mission and pastor of the Tirana Central Church, sees the project as extremely relevant since “teens and young people are the future of our church, as they will become future parents and church leaders.”

Albania 11 editedYouth Alive group in AlbaniaHe added, “we are very happy to be part of the pilot project of Youth Alive in Albania. This project provides Christ-centred guidelines for them to foster a healthy life, free from addictions, including the essential elements in the development of their characters in a holistic way fostering the spiritual, mental and physical aspects. I really enjoyed seeing our young people build bonds through their friendship groups and pray for each other.

"The project, besides developing many recreational activities, also includes group dynamics that helps them to connect in a deeper way with themselves, others and with God. There is also a very important part of the project that includes getting involved in community services. This can be a way of planting new churches,” suggests the project leader in Korçë, Juliana Ortolan.

In Lithuania some of the leaders and participants thought of visiting a nearby retirement home and holding a concert in the backyard, which had their residents pleasantly surprised and very happy to be visited by the youth.

Lithuania 2 editedSome of the young people also went to the town centre to share the Adventist health message. They offered to swop cigarettes for apples, and invited people to a smoking cessation programme. Another group sang hymns at their local hospital and handed out magazines. Residents appeared to be very pleased and asked for such programmes in other cities as well.

While piloted in Albania and then Lithuania, Youth Alive will soon be implemented in other places. Research into the effectiveness of Youth Alive is being undertaken by Dr Duane McBride, director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, and research professor of Sociology at Andrews University. This monitoring will be carried out through a risk behaviour tracking questionnaire, allowing an assessment of behavioural changes during the project's implementation years.

Lithuania 1 editedYouth Alive Congress in LithuaniaThis was the first worldwide experience of the Youth Alive project. However, according to Katia G. Reinert, GC Associate director of Health Ministries and coordinator of the Youth Alive programme, this is actually a new approach of a programme created many years ago. "The church created the project as a way of engaging youth and adolescents, since they are more open to risky behaviours in at this stage of their lives," she says.

Lithuania 5 editedWhile the project had been used for many years around the world, it needed adapting to ensure relevance to modern culture and youth today.

Delmar Reis, Albania Mission Youth director believes that “this project will be relevant in Albania and can also be applied even more globally through local churches, schools and communities”.

Reinert sees this project as an opportunity to help church growing and develop discipleship. “Our desire is that Youth Alive is not only discipling young Adventists, but that its holistic message may be influencing the local community and empowering the young people to lead and be active in mission by building resilience and living a happier and healthier life.”


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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